MAINSTREAM MEDIA TWISTS THE TRUTH
By Wayne Sim
Despite Workers’ Party leader Low Thia Khiang saying that Singapore’s so-called mainstream media has been “more balanced” in its coverage of this election compared to before, the fact remains that reporters have sought to twist certain facts in order to tell a different story.
Channel NewsAsia reported that NSP candidate Nicole Seah posted a comment on her Facebook page on the furore surrounding Dr Vincent Wijeysingha and the vicious allegations made by his PAP opponents that he had a “hidden gay agenda”.
The report read as follows:
The latest hot issues on the Internet revolve around section 377A and the issue of promoting gay rights in Singapore.
The Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalises homosexual sex.
National Solidarity Party candidate Nicole Seah posted comments on social networking site Facebook, saying she wondered if Section 377A is a big problem.
Ms Seah said homosexuality is a touchy subject.
She questioned if repealing such a law would dilute the nuclear family unit.
The statement attracted more than a thousand “likes”.
Many who commented on Ms Seah’s Facebook page asked for the focus in the General Election to be on more important issues.
The report seems to insinuate that Ms Seah was for retaining Section 377(a), and even suggests that she harbours prejudices against homosexuals because she feels their way of life might serve to dilute the nuclear family unit.
Her comments were clearly taken out of context. The full text of her Facebook post read as follows:
A number of people have asked me about my stand on Penal Code 377A which criminalises homosexuality, because of the current situation with Vincent SDP.
My personal take on this is very clear. But it is not in line with many parties’ stances apart from SDP, because it is a touchy topic. Singaporeans should ask themselves this – Regardless of whether you are homophobic or otherwise, do you think it is right to say that these people have committed a crime, being who they are? Do you think that we need a law to cast a darker shadow over the way they live, in ADDITION to the current stigma that is already prevalent throughout society?
Many have argued that passing such a law will dilute the nuclear family unit. As I mentioned before, reality is not as simple as rhetoric. Item A will give you Item B in a mathematics formula, but reality is such that there are so many other factors at play.
Think about it.
So what is eroding the fabric of society? Is 377A even as big a problem as it is made out to be?
Single mums not being entitled to benefits that nuclear family units have, which may partially contribute to hindering their child’s upward mobility in comparison to kids who grow up with better resources. Low-income families, having to wait for 8 months before getting a rental flat in Dakota Crescent, because there is no space and flats originally set aside for low-income families are being leased out to foreigners at a $1500 profit. Exorbitant housing prices, which are deterring young couples from settling down. Bureaucratic red tape and demand outstripping supply that makes it frustrating for young couples to apply for a flat to settle down. I personally know of a couple who had to go through 7 rounds of rejection before getting a flat.
Whether you are a diehard supporter of the current Penal code, or if you buy into the argument that repealing this code will have a direct causal effect to erode the fabric of society, do take some time to think about what you have observed around you as a Singaporean over the past few years.
The CNA report has clearly been designed to mislead, seeing as it makes use of vague and ambiguous wording such as:
Ms Seah said homosexuality is a touchy subject. She questioned if repealing such a law would dilute the nuclear family unit.
Armed with a greater appreciation of the overall context and upon a closer reading, discerning readers might be able to make out that Ms Seah was questioning those who argue for keeping Section 377(a), rather than those who argue for its abolition. The reason behind the writer’s choice of such vague language is obvious – it is primarily meant to give readers the impression that Ms Seah does not support Dr Wijeysingha, and secondarily, it hopes to make use of Ms Seah’s popularity to further discredit Dr Wijeysingha.
This is an example of irresponsible and politically-motivated journalism, the same sort that led international NGO Reporters Without Borders to rank Singapore 154th in the world in terms of press freedom.
In the meantime, the print media has gone into overdrive churning out propaganda designed to discredit Dr Wijeysingha, with The New Paper plastering its front page with the headline “Is Singapore Ready For Gay MP?” along with the words “PAP asks SDP, what is your agenda?”
It appears that the media smear campaign has been well co-ordinated with Dr Balakrishnan’s comments, which were carefully timed and selected to do little more than “out” Dr Wijeysingha – one of the most promising opposition candidates at this election – as being a homosexual, knowing full well that many of the voters in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC come from Christian backgrounds, and were previously questioning the PAP’s moral leadership following its decision to allow the construction of two casinos in Singapore.
By bringing up the gay issue, the casino issue – brought up by the SDP’s Mr Tan Jee Say at a press conference last week – has been relegated to the sidelines, thanks to the salacious and sensational manner in which the exposé has been managed.
The fact that the media has been used repeatedly as a tool by the PAP to demolish its opponents comes as no surprise. In 1974, the PAP used the draconian Newspapers and Printing Presses Act to subjugate the print media after it had given Mr Lee Kuan Yew a hard time in his early years as Prime Minister. Since that time, all the chairmen of the newly-created Singapore Press Holdings corporation have been former PAP politicians. The current chairman of SPH is former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan Keng Yam.
Though many Singaporeans have started turning to the internet as a source of news, the older generation is still heavily reliant on the mainstream media. With the newspapers and TV stations effectively serving as PAP mouthpieces, it is no wonder that the opposition has been unable to make any headway at the polls.
The author is a Staff Writer at The Satay Club. He is a final year law undergraduate at a reputable university in Australia, and returns to Singapore at least twice a year.